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Author Topic: EP252: Billion-Dollar View  (Read 17414 times)

Swamp

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on: August 06, 2010, 01:45:16 PM
EP252: Billion-Dollar View

By Ray Tabler
Read by John Cmar

“But my name is Simon.”

Molly shook her head and chuckled.  “With a head of hair like that?  Nope, from now on your name is Red.”

Simon felt his young face flushing with embarrassment, which would further cement his new nickname.  “What if I don’t want to be called Red?”

“Too late, should have shaved your head before I bought your contract.”  Molly winked at him, executed a back flip in mid-air and launched herself out of the Labor Mart.  “Come on, Red. We ain’t got all day.”


Rated PG for peril and heartbreak and ballads

Show Notes:

Hugo award winner Cheryl Morgan launches Wizard’s Tower Press for bringing out-of-print books to ebooks.

We have feedback for Episode 244.

Promo for NK Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!

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KenK

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Reply #1 on: August 06, 2010, 01:53:46 PM
Reminds of the RAH stories I used to read as a kid. Cool and cheesy at the same time.



heyes

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Reply #2 on: August 06, 2010, 02:24:06 PM
This was a nice romp, seemed more like an episode in a larger setting.  Which is to say I could definitely enjoy reading more in this setting.

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Void Munashii

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Reply #3 on: August 06, 2010, 03:04:24 PM
  This story made me think of story/cartoon I heard/saw when I was young about a cowgirl who jumps over the moon. I cannot think of or find the name of this, and no one around me has ever heard of it, so maybe I'm making it up, I don't know.

  I enjoyed this story a lot, it felt like an old western tale to me. Even though I knew exactly how it would end when the Broomstick was mentioned in relation to saving the kids that did not make the ending any less sad.

  The reading on this tale was great; definite redemption after the perverse snack cake ;)

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Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #4 on: August 06, 2010, 03:27:39 PM
I second KenK - it was very, very Heinlein-esque.  If you'd told me RAH himself wrote it, I wouldn't have been in the least surprised.  Nor would I be surprised to learn that Tabler wrote this as a Heinlein tribute.

This is not a complaint, let me hasten to add; I've read a lot of Heinlein (though not all, yet) and enjoyed most of it.  Tales like this are quite fun, though I think a steady diet of them would be a bit much.

I enjoyed Cmar's reading, though a couple of mispronunciations pulled me out of the story, particularly some of the Japanese names (e.g. Miko is pronounced - to a first approximation - "Mee-koh", not "Mike-oh".  I suppose the name might have been Maiko, but since that's the Japanese word for assistant geisha, I highly doubt it).

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Kaa

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Reply #5 on: August 06, 2010, 04:28:10 PM
I really liked this. It reminded me simultaneously of Fred Pohl's The Heechee Saga and the wonderful short story "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin.

Very nicely written and paced, and read wonderfully by John Cmar. This is why I listen to Escape Pod. Right here.

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #6 on: August 06, 2010, 05:03:52 PM
Man against the void is a genre that I like, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you why, at least not coherently. I like stories where the good guys win. I like stories where love conquers all. I like stories with magic.

Except, I suppose, that these stories usually involve the good guys winning... at a cost. The tell us that love conquers all... and death is stronger than life, but not love. And the only magic they need is human spirit, and that's pretty cool.

This story is honestly one of the best I've read in the subgenre in a long time. I fell hard for the characters from moment one and never looked back.

I will say, however, that I didn't like the ending. Endings are hard - I don't think I've ever written an ending I was really happy with - and this one fell flat for me. Not the content - the wording. There was something awkward about it.

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stePH

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Reply #7 on: August 06, 2010, 05:10:23 PM
I also was reminded of "The Cold Equations", which I've never read, but have had described to me.

Also C.J. Cherryh's Heavy Time which is about asteroid belt miners, because the line about "shepherding" rocks reminded me of the Shepherds from Heavy Time.

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RC Davison

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Reply #8 on: August 06, 2010, 11:52:46 PM
Great story on several fronts.  It was refreshing to hear a story that was well thought out technically.  Too often stories set in space ignore the realities of living and working in space.  Ray Tabler wove those realities nicely into the plot.  Well done!

« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 12:09:50 AM by RC Davison »



Ocicat

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Reply #9 on: August 07, 2010, 01:07:53 AM
I was reminded of Alan Steele's blue collar space stories.  I loved those.  Great story, though the transition from the framing sequence into the story itself was a bit jarring to me.



blueeyeddevil

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Reply #10 on: August 07, 2010, 09:12:47 PM
This story actually made me think of Bradbury's "Kaleidoscope", but that may be merely because of the compelling imagery of someone
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 09:18:44 PM by blueeyeddevil »



Talia

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Reply #11 on: August 08, 2010, 11:09:32 PM
A well told tale, but one I didn't emotionally connect with for whatever reason. I guess I didn't know enough about either Red or Molly to particularly come to care about either one.

Fantastic reading. But Mr. Cmar will always be Smidgen to me.  ;) :P



Unblinking

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Reply #12 on: August 09, 2010, 04:36:54 PM
Fantastic reading. But Mr. Cmar will always be Smidgen to me.  ;) :P

Me too, I was wondering throughout, how the snack cake would fit into all of it.  I thought the mention of him not wanting to be typecast was a great line.  :)

This story just didn't really do it for me.  The emotional puppet-strings were too visible.  It was easy to note where I was supposed to feel things, but never really felt them.  When he realized she wasn't on the Broomstick, for instance, I'm sure was supposed to be a huge emotional point, sad for Red, and proud for Molly's willingness to sacrifice herself for the lives of others, but for me it was just kind of there.

It might've had more of an impact on me if the framing story hadn't pretty much told me how it would end, but even beyond that, neither of the characters felt like real people, just placefillers where just about anyone could've been inserted.

It could also be partially because hard SF usually doesn't really grab my interest.  Through no fault of the author, it tends to all sound the same to me.




Thunderscreech

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Reply #13 on: August 09, 2010, 06:59:53 PM
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned all the Lester Del Rey references in the story.  The character names, the ship name, the broomstick....  it was like an LDR montage!  The juveniles, at least.  That guy wrote some good stuff for older audiences too that doesn't get a lot of love, I think lots of folks leave him behind when they 'grow up', not realizing that he put out some good gritty SF stuff too.



alllie

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Reply #14 on: August 09, 2010, 08:48:39 PM
I thought it was optimistic and inspiring and it made me tear up at the end.

The thing is so many stories these days are about jaded and selfish people that a story about unselfish and heroic characters, both Molly and Red, seems out of the ordinary, brave in its embrace of the positive. 



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Reply #15 on: August 10, 2010, 06:02:36 PM
Sorry, but I just didn't care for it.  They don't write SF like this anymore, and there are reasons.  Everything was a bit too simple and sweet.  Likeable characters going about their likable lives until they get a chance to fall over each other  attempting to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.  It had the ring of an old western radio show retooled to run on an equally old SF radio show.  Sweet but not particularly satisfying.
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alllie

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Reply #16 on: August 10, 2010, 06:36:38 PM
Sorry, but I just didn't care for it.  They don't write SF like this anymore, and there are reasons.  Everything was a bit too simple and sweet.  Likeable characters going about their likable lives until they get a chance to fall over each other  attempting to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.  It had the ring of an old western radio show retooled to run on an equally old SF radio show.  Sweet but not particularly satisfying.
Sincerely,
A crusty old cynic, who now feels like he just beat up a kitten.

While there are plenty of vicious selfish people in the world, there are also heroes. Even civilian heroes. Like the 10 aid workers killed last week in Afghanistan. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/world/asia/10aidworkers.html

Quote
Their devotion was perhaps most evident in what they gave up to carry out their mission: Dr. Thomas L. Grams, 51, left a thriving dental practice; Dr. Karen Woo, 36, walked away from a surgeon’s salary; Cheryl Beckett, 32, had no time for courtship or marriage.

Most of all, the 10 medical workers massacred in northern Afghanistan last week — six Americans, one German, one Briton and two Afghans — sacrificed their own safety, in a calculated gamble that weighed the risk against the distribution of eyeglasses and toothbrushes, pain relief and prenatal care to remote villages they reached on foot.

Billion-Dollar View isn't so foolish when you read about them.

There are good people in the world, and bad people, but it's nice sometimes to read about the heroes. Not the superheroes who save people from physical dangers using physical powers, but the real heroes who try to change the world one person at a time.



Listener

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Reply #17 on: August 10, 2010, 07:58:42 PM
I can point to this story and say "I liked it" with more confidence than with many EA offerings lately. Molly sacrificing herself was a little cliche, but I didn't mind so much. The reading was also good.

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Darwinist

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Reply #18 on: August 13, 2010, 01:58:38 AM
I like this one.  Great narration.  Reminded me of ACC's short stories, but with better characters.   Neat old-school sci-fi with a not happy ending.  Win.

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SquidDNA

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Reply #19 on: August 13, 2010, 06:15:29 PM
Dear Escape Artists, Inc.,

Please stop making me cry on my commute, it's embarassing.




Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #20 on: August 13, 2010, 06:29:05 PM
Dear Escape Artists, Inc.,

Please stop making me cry on my commute, it's embarrassing.

Sometimes I want this forum to have 'Like' buttons.

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


Loz

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Reply #21 on: August 14, 2010, 07:09:37 PM
I have to go with the people who felt it failed to make any kind of emotional connection with them, seeing as the connection that Molly and Red developed with one another was largely glossed over in a 'and then some time passed and we did develop some kind of relationship' way it meant I felt no more than a passing 'dang it' when it became clear what Molly had done.

I also felt that Molly sacrificing herself didn't make much sense. Seeing as sci-fi space physics can be as soft or as hard as you like, surely if the  ship could move at all, Molly didn't need to disconnect from it to allow it to reach Red in the main vessel?



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Reply #22 on: August 14, 2010, 11:45:34 PM
I'm pretty much with Unblinking on this one; nicely written, but I just didn't manage to connect emotionally with it.  The relationship between Red and Molly felt like a fait accompli rather than something portrayed within the story, which is a bit awkward for a story that starts with their first meeting.  I think the comparison to both "The Cold Equations" and an old Western are apt; it's pretty much their lovechild.  Still, a little bit of traditional scifi is always a good time, ne?

(It took me *way* the heck too long to remember where I saw this story before.   ::))



CryptoMe

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Reply #23 on: August 15, 2010, 03:07:55 AM
In principle, I liked the story. But there were several points that just didn't sit well with me...

Like Loz, I couldn't buy the whole "this is the only way we could reach the kids" angle.

Several people have pointed out that Molly and Red's relationship was thinly developed in the story. My biggest complaint is that Molly's relationship to the kids is even less developed, leaving me completely surprised when she sacrifices her life for them (not saying that she wouldn't, just in this story, it seems to come out of nowhere).

Things like that left me feeling unsatisfied at the end.



gateaux

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Reply #24 on: August 16, 2010, 03:45:02 AM
Great reading, and I liked the set up of this story. But the whole self-sacrifice ending is so very overdone, and the story wasn't long or invested enough to make me actually care about the character dying.



mbrennan

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Reply #25 on: August 16, 2010, 09:15:24 AM
Gateaux pretty much summed up my feelings.  In my case, there's an added helping of irritation whenever a story echoes "The Cold Equations;" I'm not a fan of that one to begin with, and this made me think about all the reasons it annoys me.



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Reply #26 on: August 17, 2010, 07:25:09 PM
Agreed. There wasn't enough character development to get me to care about any of them. The whole setting was nice but a bit too bare-bones. Also something that seriously got to me was the kids themselves. Ok, so it seems that it was really expensive to go out and be a space miner, so you had to have a contract and they basically 'sold' you to someone who would pay for your trip in exchange for a certain term of labor. Fair enough.

Also, space mining was incredibly dangerous and lots of people died in accidents all the time. Again, fair enough.

But then this couple brings three small children along. WTF? And I believe they even specifically said they brought them with them. Who pays for the kids contracts? If they were rich enough to not have to have contracts for 5 people, three of which couldn't work anyway, why the hell would they need to go out to space? And furthermore who would be willing to blast small children into deep space mining operations where even adults had a good chance to die? None of that made any damn sense.

It would have made a lot more sense if, say, the couple were in this accident, she was pregnant, the guy died, and she went and rescued the woman. Or hell, something, anything other than 'We brought some 2 year olds into an extreme mining situation. Thought it'd be a good idea.'


Now, having said that the writing was well done, and the basic plot was nice enough, even if it was a bit overdone.



Listener

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Reply #27 on: August 17, 2010, 09:26:27 PM
But then this couple brings three small children along. WTF? And I believe they even specifically said they brought them with them. Who pays for the kids contracts? If they were rich enough to not have to have contracts for 5 people, three of which couldn't work anyway, why the hell would they need to go out to space? And furthermore who would be willing to blast small children into deep space mining operations where even adults had a good chance to die? None of that made any damn sense.

I gathered that the Japanese (I think) family owned their ship together, whereas Molly didn't, so she had to buy a contract to get someone to help her do the mining.

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Paranatural

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Reply #28 on: August 18, 2010, 08:49:45 PM
But then this couple brings three small children along. WTF? And I believe they even specifically said they brought them with them. Who pays for the kids contracts? If they were rich enough to not have to have contracts for 5 people, three of which couldn't work anyway, why the hell would they need to go out to space? And furthermore who would be willing to blast small children into deep space mining operations where even adults had a good chance to die? None of that made any damn sense.

I gathered that the Japanese (I think) family owned their ship together, whereas Molly didn't, so she had to buy a contract to get someone to help her do the mining.

Actually I'm pretty sure she did because the story talks about how rich they became doing the mining. If you get that rich you probably own the ship.

Anyway I guess the larger point is that it'd be criminally negligent to let a couple go into mining with three small children with them even in a modern, Earth mine. Doing so in deep space would, I think, be pretty much unthinkable.





CryptoMe

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Reply #29 on: August 19, 2010, 01:36:51 AM
But then this couple brings three small children along. WTF? And I believe they even specifically said they brought them with them. Who pays for the kids contracts? If they were rich enough to not have to have contracts for 5 people, three of which couldn't work anyway, why the hell would they need to go out to space? And furthermore who would be willing to blast small children into deep space mining operations where even adults had a good chance to die? None of that made any damn sense.

My impression was that the couple had kids *after* they were already in space. At that point, what can you do? Leave them with someone else for months on end? Sounds like a tough decision, and they did the best they could.

Anyway I guess the larger point is that it'd be criminally negligent to let a couple go into mining with three small children with them even in a modern, Earth mine. Doing so in deep space would, I think, be pretty much unthinkable.

I don't think it is the mining that is dangerous. I think it's space in general that is dangerous. And they may as well be in space with you rather than in space with someone else...   :-\

BTW, modern, working Earth mines run tours for school-aged kids all the time. They are actually quite clean and safe these days.



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Reply #30 on: August 19, 2010, 05:22:22 PM
Sadly, I have to agree with those who failed to emotionally connect with the story. This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, just that it never grabbed me and shoved me inside it. I love RAH, but he often made me feel the same way, as did Bradbury, come to think of it. I think I connected with it the same way I do most music or ballads or mythic tales or whatnot. Its a story about people that happened and is interesting but you're not meant to totally identify with the characters or situation, just to listen and go along for the ride. Nice ride. Love the life in a vacuum as normal thing. Yes, it was predictable in many ways- but if the story was being told as a sort of space-ballad I would expect it to be predictable and sappy.
This is turning out to be a much more complicated post than I intended. And obtuse. So I'll be quiet now. :-X

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Nobilis

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Reply #31 on: August 20, 2010, 02:32:23 PM
This one got me.  But then I'm an old softie.



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Reply #32 on: August 20, 2010, 03:24:49 PM
I enjoyed this story, but wow, Cmar's reading kind of put it over the top for me. I'm not exactly granting him absolution for Smidgeon (he'll always be a desirable love-cake in my mind), but it's nice to know he's not only a vehicle for lust, but love.


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Reply #33 on: August 20, 2010, 04:59:32 PM
I enjoyed this story, but wow, Cmar's reading kind of put it over the top for me. I'm not exactly granting him absolution for Smidgeon (he'll always be a desirable love-cake in my mind), but it's nice to know he's not only a vehicle for lust, but love.

But the Smidgen story said "love" right in the title.   Don't hate on Smidgen just because you don't understand his love.   ;D



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Reply #34 on: August 21, 2010, 11:56:27 AM
It's not just Heinleinesque, it's Golden Age-esque.  RAH, Clarke, Cold Equations -- it's a homage to all of them.  I liked.  One gets so tired of deep, emotionally engaging, complex stories while inching along bumper to bumper on the Belt.

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Spoiler (click to show/hide)


JoeFitz

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Reply #35 on: August 21, 2010, 12:13:45 PM
I wasn't very fond of this story - despite it's echoes of many classic, golden age and the warm and fuzzy feelings it tried to evoke. I just did not get connected to this at all. I don't think it was the maudlin yet somewhat poignant story of the miners, but rather the frame story that bothered me most.

I also have to say that I was less than impressed with the outcome. Perhaps it's just a cold morning (and I don't have any children) but it seems to me you can always have more children. In a survival situation like that, emotionally, it feels right to sacrifice yourself to save the children. It feels right to deceive your gullible partner into thinking you did not sacrifice yourself until it's too late. But I have to wonder wouldn't it make more sense in deep, cold space, to chose the parent. That would be an interesting story.



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Reply #36 on: August 22, 2010, 02:43:45 PM
It's not just Heinleinesque, it's Golden Age-esque.  RAH, Clarke, Cold Equations -- it's a homage to all of them.  I liked.  One gets so tired of deep, emotionally engaging, complex stories while inching along bumper to bumper on the Belt.

When you wrote "Belt" there, my first thought was of the asteroid belt.

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Unblinking

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Reply #37 on: August 23, 2010, 01:33:17 PM
One gets so tired of deep, emotionally engaging, complex stories while inching along bumper to bumper on the Belt.

Yes, bring on the shallow, emotionally distancing, simple stories!  ;)



Listener

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Reply #38 on: August 23, 2010, 02:08:52 PM
It's not just Heinleinesque, it's Golden Age-esque.  RAH, Clarke, Cold Equations -- it's a homage to all of them.  I liked.  One gets so tired of deep, emotionally engaging, complex stories while inching along bumper to bumper on the Belt.

When you wrote "Belt" there, my first thought was of the asteroid belt.

Me too.

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Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #39 on: August 24, 2010, 06:46:08 PM
It's not just Heinleinesque, it's Golden Age-esque.  RAH, Clarke, Cold Equations -- it's a homage to all of them.  I liked.  One gets so tired of deep, emotionally engaging, complex stories while inching along bumper to bumper on the Belt.

When you wrote "Belt" there, my first thought was of the asteroid belt.

Me too.

And ditto.

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


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Reply #40 on: August 25, 2010, 12:23:14 AM
It's not just Heinleinesque, it's Golden Age-esque.  RAH, Clarke, Cold Equations -- it's a homage to all of them.  I liked.  One gets so tired of deep, emotionally engaging, complex stories while inching along bumper to bumper on the Belt.

When you wrote "Belt" there, my first thought was of the asteroid belt.

Me too.

And ditto.

Therein lies he difference between a Brooklyn native and a space cadet.

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What would have been written. 

Spoiler (click to show/hide)


Unblinking

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Reply #41 on: August 27, 2010, 01:22:46 PM
It's not just Heinleinesque, it's Golden Age-esque.  RAH, Clarke, Cold Equations -- it's a homage to all of them.  I liked.  One gets so tired of deep, emotionally engaging, complex stories while inching along bumper to bumper on the Belt.

When you wrote "Belt" there, my first thought was of the asteroid belt.

Me too.

And ditto.

Therein lies he difference between a Brooklyn native and a space cadet.

Ah, that's a highway?  Until this last comment, I STILL thought we were talking about the asteroid belt.  :)



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #42 on: August 27, 2010, 06:26:01 PM
Even my second thought was wrong, because I went from Asteroids to Washington DC (which, of course, has the Beltway, not the Belt).

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


Thunderscreech

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Reply #43 on: August 28, 2010, 02:37:43 PM
A shame, the image of "inching along, bumper to bumper" in the asteroid belt is do poetic.  :)



Scatcatpdx

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Reply #44 on: September 02, 2010, 04:57:27 AM
I enjoyed this little romp; the story sound like it would make a great country song.



hardware

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Reply #45 on: September 08, 2010, 10:00:11 AM
So just listened to this story, and can not say it got to me very much. Many here complains that the characters were never really developed, and I agree, but I think the predictability of it all also played in. From the start we understand that something bad will happen to Molly, and as it happens, every character is only introduced to play a part of that in that tragedy. In fact, they are plot devices more than anything.

Still, there is something to be said for the setting of the asteroid belt as the frontier, and the rough space camaraderie as a way to make the story relatable. That part I enjoyed



Lionman

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Reply #46 on: September 09, 2010, 03:32:19 AM
This story made me think about it being a music video, one I would like...a song that tells a story.  Although, it seems this was sort of a Tennessee Ernie Ford ballad-style song along the lines of "Sixteen Tons."

Bottom line: I liked this one.

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neltek

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Reply #47 on: November 21, 2010, 08:57:57 AM
I loved this one.
Thought it was great.
Also copied it to my wife's blackberry as I think it will be one she might actually listen to

:)



yicheng

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Reply #48 on: December 22, 2010, 05:57:56 PM
[snip]... It feels right to deceive your gullible partner into thinking you did not sacrifice yourself until it's too late. But I have to wonder wouldn't it make more sense in deep, cold space, to chose the parent. That would be an interesting story.

I don't think so.  In human societies where resources are very scarce (hunter/gatherer types like the Alaskan Inuits), birth rates tend to be rather low,  and lot of time/effort/resources tend to go into raising children.  Children were often highly valued and treated with great care.  The Apache, for example, were by all accounts very caring and doting parents.  Although, the dark side of this kind of culture is that infanticide was often widely practiced, especially for infants with perceived birth defects or flaws.  It's only when you get to the more civilized and settled societies, where food production paved the way for explosive birth rates, that you get crappy treatment of children (and people in general), probably because you'd always have a couple of spare ones running around.

So, I think it would probably make sense, in a space-nomad type society, for children to be very highly prized, even worth of sacrifice by adults.